It was a lively evening when Datuk Professor Jimmy Choo Yeang Keat, famous worldwide for his exquisitely crafted shoes shared his success story in a packed room at Symphony Suites. In dialogue with Patrick Teoh, former TV and radio presenter and now ‘Agent Provocateur’ the talk was organised by Perak Academy.
Jimmy, son of a shoemaker in Penang, said that he learned his trade from watching his father make shoes. Jimmy Choo’s break into the fashion world began when his creations were featured in Vogue magazine, catching the eyes of the rich and famous. The late Princess Diana loved Jimmy’s shoes and had several crafted by him. Later they were featured in made-for-TV movies such as “Sex and the City”. The character played by Sarah Jessica Parker was also a big fan of Jimmy Choo. Jimmy subsequently sold his shoe business in 2001 for 10 million sterling and is now back in Malaysia operating his own couture line.
His creations are adorning the feet of royalty, celebrities and pop stars. Sporting a pair of handmade crocodile skin shoes costing RM38,000, Jimmy informed the audience that to get his personalised shoes, clients have to make appointment with him for measurements and return for fitting before collecting them. Not that there’ll be a long queue for his personalised shoes as the number of patrons who can afford his RM32,000 shoes are few and far between.
Patrick, a home-grown Ipoh boy, while not as famous globally, has nevertheless made a name for himself, albeit steeped in controversy. The infamous incident of him planting a kiss on the cheek of a lady, live on TV3, caused him his job many years ago while recently Patrick was working with a radio station in KL but was shown the door, post haste. The Information Minister then felt that having him on air was a bad influence on listeners, as GE 13 was around the corner.
When Patrick asked Jimmy what other names he had in mind for his shoes the reply was, “One of them was Lucky Shoe”. Had Jimmy used that name he would be known today as “Datuk Professor Luck Shoe”.
Jimmy has received many awards, the latest being “World’s Most Outstanding Chinese Designer”. He is Ambassador for Footwear Education at London College of Education and a spokesperson for the British Council in their promotion of British Education for foreign students.
“Will there be another Jimmy Choo?” asked Patrick. “Not likely,” said Jimmy. “Youths today don’t like to work hard. They prefer to seek success the easy way.”
On coming home to Malaysia, he said “Malaysia is my home. Malaysians who have made it big abroad should promote their country to the world. I also wanted to spend more time with my family.”
His advice for aspiring young Malaysians who want to be shoe designers is that they must be hardworking, sincere and honest. They must participate in international shoe exhibitions especially those held in London to get recognition.
He welcomed the idea of setting up a Shoe Academy in Ipoh.